There were numerous places to hide in London. The city was crowded, vast and, most important of all, anonymous. No one looked twice at anything in London. Even if one set oneself to the task of being noticed it was still a quest in order to get the attention and another separate venture to hold it. This fact of London life was something that Sherlock Holmes relied upon to carry about his work. It was as essential to his work as his brain was and as essential as John Watson had become to him.
That comparison was all the more fitting being that he is about to rely on that anonymity and disinterest of London to get him and John out of here and somewhere safe. Normally this would not be a problem with the two of them under their own, individual, full power. This time, however, Sherlock will have to move both him and John. John is quite unable to stand at present.
John groans at his side and Sherlock presses him closer to him in an attempt to hush him. John's fingers dig into his shoulder - Sherlock knows it's meant to be a lot tighter than it feels. It also is not as strong as it had been a moment ago. He feels his stomach start to shoot toward his toes but sheer will and fury keeps it firmly where it is. They need to get somewhere safe and they need to get there soon. They also have to be sure they are not recognized.
He ducks the two of them into an alley and presses John up against the wall. John groans again and this time his eyes flutter open for a moment. "D'you mind?" he asks in a whisper. He smirks as well but Sherlock ignores that.
"No," he replies tersely. "Not if it keeps you alert." He tightens the makeshift bandage, made of Sherlock's own blazer, around John's midsection again and somehow manages to manoeuvre the wounded man onto his back. He then drapes the cape like rain poncho that John had grabbed just in case as soon as he'd seen the weather and had been told what they'd be doing over them. "You never know," had been John's rationale then and it was good enough for Sherlock now.
Normally Sherlock would never even consider moving around London with his injured flatmate on his back, hoping to blend into the alleys and the shadows and not be looked twice at. Appearing to be a hunchback at the very best is still quite attention grabbing for London if anyone happens to look their way. However, Spot 3 is close by and he can move faster like this.
"Don't you fall asleep," he snarls at his burden. The head shifts and he knows John is trying as hard he can. Despite that effort Sherlock knows that when they stop he is most likely not going to be awake. He should be running to a hospital but checking into one will be signing John's death warrant just as surely as it would be if he left him here.
Spot 3 is the best that he can do until he can get in contact Lestrade or Mycroft somehow. He doesn't like this plan but he has no other option. One reason he'd always worked alone before – maybe not the first reason but it was up there – was because one's options were limited when in a group.
He scolds himself for that thought – it is irrelevant at this moment and he also, selfishly, would not wish John away from him for the world – and gets moving.
John protests at almost every step but it is a silent protest. John is trying to be awake, trying to hold on to Sherlock's shoulders, and trying to keep his face down. He is trying to fade into the background, become just a growth on Sherlock's back instead of a wounded man.
Sherlock walks faster until they eventually reach Spot 3. Phil, the proprietor of the sordid building, barely looks twice at Sherlock as he hobbles up and inquires for the key to flat six. Phil hands the key over without saying a word. He doesn't expect anything less of the man he bribes monthly to keep this flat open for his use.
He doesn't really pay attention to how he gets up the stairs while still in character, or how he gets the door open, but they get there. Sherlock very carefully gets the poncho, and John, off his back and bunches one into a pillow for the other. John is asleep but he responds once Sherlock says his name and taps his cheek. "Still 'ere," he slurs. His eyes open he and looks down at his stomach. "I'd get something for that..."
Sherlock looks down and sees that makeshift bandage has now turned red. Sherlock rips off his blazer again and tears another strip and ties it tight. "You alright?" he asks John when he's done.
"More or less," John nods. His words are sounding fainter by the moment. He informs John that he's a liar. John cracks a now closed eyelid open again. "What of it?" Sherlock can't help but match the weak grin John flashes him. He squeezes John's good shoulder and tells him he'll be back in a second. John grunts – it's meant to be in annoyance but it sounds far from it.
When Sherlock stands he realises multiple things about Spot 3. One is that it has been years since he's set foot in here and another is that this particular Spot has not been used for a very good reason. Drug addiction was a strange thing, he thinks as he takes in the barren, filthy, room and the ratty mattress lying in the middle of the floor. He knew without even going into the loo that there would be nothing of use to him there. Nothing to help John.
English curses are nowhere near adequate for this situation. It is in his grandmère's language that he voices his anger and panic as he storms the loo and tears through the cupboards. Not even any sticking plaster. He throws an arm at the cabinet as if to throw it off the wall but ends up breaking the mirror instead. His knuckles are bleeding but what worries him is that John has not said anything in response to the noise.
He launches himself at the mattress and rips the two thread bare sheets off the bed and then rushes back to John. He winds them tight around John's torso but John only moans and grunts in response. His eyelids flutter but don't open. "Are you with me?" Sherlock whispers, "John? John!"
John grunts. Efficient but descriptive. Aware and alert, mostly, but either unable or unwilling to open his eyes or speak. Sherlock chooses to believe unwilling as he presses down on the wound and John bites his lip. Semi conscious and responsive to voice and pain, the rational part of Sherlock tells him. Better than it could be and better than it will be if he doesn't get John help right now; or at least very, very soon.
Rationality reminds him that neither he nor John has a mobile on them tonight – they hadn't wanted to risk being tracked, stupid idea though that was. Going downstairs and asking Phil would be a long process and also would leave John vulnerable. Rushing out and asking for help also was out of the question, for the same reasons.
Some remnant of the Sherlock that had existed an hour or so ago scoffs that he can leave John and get him help and he'll be fine. This new, or perhaps newly realised, part of him snarls right back that he won't leave John. That he can't leave John. One side calls the other weak and that he'd known this would happen. The other doesn't care.
Sherlock tries to still his mind but only succeeds in hurting John, whose eyes open and they are the clearest that they have been yet. Please no, he prays desperately. He has seen this look before. It had never ended well for him. Grandmère had looked at him like that just before she'd died.
"Call Mycroft." It was a simple order. The direction of a commanding officer. "Leave me my gun and go make the call. I'll do what I can."
John, what you can is not very much. Better sense reminds Sherlock that this man is a crack shot and this isn't the first time he has been shot. He refuses to acknowledge that this precise situation has never happened to him before.
He slides the gun out of his pocket and gives it to John. John's fingers are strong and he effortlessly turns the safety off. "I'll also do my best to be here when you get back."
Sherlock does not – cannot – move.
John barks a captain's order to move and the next thing he knows he's down below arguing with Phil. He takes Phil's mobile out of his pocket when he's busy protecting his archaic rotary phone. The call duration is fifteen seconds; Mycroft's men and Lestrade arrive eight and a half minutes later.
It had taken Sherlock two to three seconds to get back up the stairs and John was still there. He was still unconscious and he was breathing, but breathing very, very slowly.
When the cavalry arrives they find Sherlock breathing for John. He doesn't stop until the world's most discreet paramedics arrive and give him a reason to.
They still won't let him in. They say that they're stabilizing him but Sherlock knows what they are actually doing is waiting for him to get a grip on himself before allowing him anywhere near their patient.
Sherlock forces himself to sit down; he's been pacing the waiting room for over an hour now. The room is empty aside from one of Mycroft's men playing guard duty. Mycroft is dealing with their quarry (John's would be assassin) and Lestrade is out trying to fact find for him. Lestrade had been sitting with him for the first hour and a half or so but then set out to find out more. Part his own curiosity, part to help Sherlock out, and part to give Sherlock much needed to time to collect himself. His heart his still racing and a part of him is still convinced that someone is going to come in and tell him that John has died after all.
He buries his face in his hands and he sighs. Growls, really. He sits up again and shakes out his hands and runs his fingers through his hair. He can feel some of his old detachment and rationality coming back but not all of it. John has been hurt, badly, because of him and he will never be the same.
He knows that John will say it wasn't his fault. He knows that John will stay with him. He has never promised John safety and John has never wanted for it since the man thrives on danger. He has failed John and himself though despite these facts and opinions. Everything has changed now. They are not invulnerable. Really, Sherlock should be grateful they've lasted this long without either of them needing serious medical attention.
Lestrade suddenly enters the waiting room with a speed unusual for the circumstances. He quickly grabs a nearby magazine and arranges himself as though he's always been there. The nurse who had admitted John and who had told them where to wait stood in the doorway and scanned the room as though she were a CCTV camera searching for shoplifters. After a moment she decided all was well and went back to her rounds. Lestrade remained motionless for a few more moments before tossing aside the magazine and sitting up. "He's fine," Lestrade reports. "I got into his room for precisely," he looks at his watch, "two and half minutes before I heard her coming down the hall and got the hell out of there."
He is obviously alive, which means more than Sherlock can possibly articulate or even contemplate, if Lestrade is speaking this way but he still needs to know more. "How is he?"
"Alive and asleep," Lestrade tells him. "He's only hooked up to one IV and he's not in critical anymore - the rest of the chart was illegible. You may have better luck, or we can get John to translate when he wakes up."
Sherlock sighs, this time a normal sounding one, and thanks Lestrade. Normally, Sherlock knows, Lestrade would be gawking at him and probably making some sort of quip about finally getting his just desserts after all this time but he says nothing. He merely nods in acknowledgement. "You feeling any better?"
Sherlock doesn't respond and Lestrade doesn't say anything. Lestrade doesn't look anywhere near as concerned as he had before he'd left so he supposed that he must at least appear better. That would do for the time being. He needed to see that John was alright. Then better might be within the realm of possible if not probable.
Lestrade and he look at each other for a bit longer before Sherlock resumes his pacing. Half an hour later John's doctor walks in and gives him the clearance that he needs. Lestrade bids Sherlock good night and asks him to call him in the morning to let him know how John is doing. Then he manages to flee from the room without making it look like he's fleeing the room. Sherlock has only seen that manoeuvre once or twice in the six and half years he has known Lestrade and it never fails to impress him. Clearly Lestrade has had an altercation with this woman previously, most likely was almost caught when scouting out John's room. The woman looks confused and shakes her head – wondering if she had in fact seen that man before – and then leads Sherlock on.
If one were to minus the environment and replace the hospital bed with either John's bed back at the flat or even the couch Sherlock could quite possibly have mistaken the situation for something far less serious. John looked like he had the last time he'd caught a bit of a flu and had decided to call it an early night. The nasal canella, IV drip, and beeping monitors however firmly grounds the situation in the reality that it is.
John is shirtless underneath the sheets, the few wires attached to him are for the monitors, and Sherlock knows that his abdomen is wrapped up in a tight bandage, one much better than the makeshift ones Sherlock had made out of his own clothes. The IV is for the painkillers. They seem to be doing their job. John's face is relaxed enough and not overly coloured by pain.
During this scan of his friend his eyes fall on John's shoulder wound. The shoulder wound that had really manifested in John's leg, the shoulder wound that always hated the rain and cold of London but never stopped John from enjoying his city, the shoulder would that had led them to each other. Sherlock's never seen it up close like this before. It's not that John is shy about it or actively goes about making sure that Sherlock never sees it, John is far from a vain man, it's just that Sherlock has never actually seen John without his shirt on before. At least not from the front, he's seen John's naked back running out of the loo plenty of times.
"If you wake up in the next three minutes I promise to advise you of all experiments taking place common areas," Sherlock says as he sits down heavily.
He nearly leaps right back out of it when a weak but welcome voice says "Deal."
John slowly turns his head to face him, heavy lids slowly opening to reveal focused but tired eyes, and slowly a smile to match his voice crosses his face. "Hello," he says. It's almost cheerful.
"Hello," Sherlock says back. His voice is certainly not cheerful but it is very grateful.
John's smile falters. Sherlock almost stands up to call for a nurse but John grabs his wrist. He's still, even like this, very fast and his grip is almost as strong as it would be normally. "Stop it," he orders, voice still far from commanding. "It would have happened to one of us eventually."
But it should have been me, Sherlock laments in his head. John would never have been in these sort of situations if it wasn't for him. It should have been him.
The grip tightens slightly. "I'm glad it wasn't you," John tells him softly.
That is something Sherlock was not expecting to hear. He has nothing to say to that so he just sits, staring at John's hand wrapped around his wrist. No one has ever said anything like that to him before.
The grip slowly turns into a more comfortable one, loose but not gone. "I'm not going anywhere anytime soon." John adds.
There are so many ways that Sherlock can challenge that but he's learned to not underestimate John Watson and to take him at his word. He also just wants the comfort of someone telling him that it's going to be okay. It's something that should trouble him just as much as his behaviour at Spot 3 and in the waiting room but the whole experience is just a small price he has to pay in knowing and being friends with John. It's not that much of a sacrifice, he finds.
Sherlock shifts his hand so it's holding John's and he squeezes it tight. "I know."
John shuts his eyes and nods. "Good." They sit in silence together for a few moments before John eventually nods off again. Sherlock decides he could do with a bit of a kip himself and follows John's example.
Their hands are still joined when a nurse comes in to do checks an hour or so later. She smiles to herself and leaves them be.